After the high life: how Filan's finances went west
Shane Filan’s property-crash debts are unlikely to be paid off by the Westlife farewell tour. A clean-living crooner with a young family, he plans to make a new solo career – and a new fortune – but will his bankruptcy cloud his prospects, asks BRIAN BOYD
ON WESTLIFE’S debut single, Swear It Again, the first of a remarkable run of 14 UK and Irish number ones for the group, Shane Filan sang: “Some people say that everything has got its place in time / Even the day must give way to the night.”
He was 19 when the song was released, still a stars-in-his-eyes teenager who, until Westlife were signed by Simon Cowell, had been working in his parents’ takeaway in Sligo town.
Thirteen years later and the day has given way to the dark night of bankruptcy for the boy-band star. A court in Surrey, where the singer now lives with his wife, GIllian, and their three children, declared him bankrupt on Thursday after the collapse of the property business he owned with his brother, Finbarr. The company owes more than €5.5 million to Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland, and last month his property-development company went into receivership.
It’s a spectacular fall from financial grace for Filan. On the back of 44 million record sales, Westlife have amassed a fortune of about €40 million; they play their farewell concerts next weekend.
He says he was forced into bankruptcy after exhausting all other options. “Together with a team of financial and legal experts I have spent months exploring all possible alternatives to bankruptcy but to no avail. I have worked long and hard to try to reduce my debts, and I am devastated that it came to this conclusion. I now intend to focus on the remaining dates of the Westlife tour and my commitments to the band before looking to rebuild a future for my wife, my three children and myself.”
He is yet another Irish person who has taken up the option of declaring bankruptcy in a British court, as he will face only a year of financial shame: in Ireland the penalty is 12 years.
With all his assets to be transferred to a court-appointed official, he will be allowed an income to support himself and his family. He will not be able to borrow money until he is discharged, this time next year. His name has also been published on Britain’s insolvency register, which gives details of all individual bankruptcy rulings.
There will be huge sympathy for Filan at home. He’s a decent, likeable character whose only crime was to have ploughed all his money into the Irish property market at the height of the boom. This is not a stereotypical case of a mindless pop star throwing the millions he earns into daft investment schemes. Of all the Louis Walsh-nurtured boy-band stars this country has produced, Filan has a reputation as being grounded and decidedly unflash. There was the odd impulsive purchase of an expensive sports car over the years, but when you’re a multimillionaire pop star and still in your early 20s that’s perhaps understandable.